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March of The Penguin

You may recall the not-so-cuddly panda and penguin algorithms unleashed by Google a couple of years ago which caused ripples in the SEO world. An attempt by the search engine to ‘clean up’ what it saw as dodgy online practices, the move proved a nasty shock to some online businesses – which had built their whole livelihoods using such ‘black-hat’ methods.

Well the bad news is that Google has just launched Penguin 2.0, a further update designed to confine aggressive link-building tactics to the dustbin of internet history.

The good news is that it’s a great chance for your brand to prosper with the right online marketing strategy (and that we’re here to spell out in plain English exactly what this latest development means for your business.)

take a landing page first approach - March of The Penguin

….Let’s Start With The History!

Once upon a time, SEO was pretty straightforward. Businesses could get onto page one of Google using methods such as keyword stuffing, duplicated content and non-quality links. This meant that often – ahem – not so great sites would come top in searches. Google wanted to make sure that strong, top-notch sites with links to others of a similar standard would be highly ranked, so released Panda and Penguin. Some businesses were all but wiped out overnight and there are figures which indicate that up to ten percent of jobs in the SEO industry were lost.  Also there was the astonishing Interflora case early this year, where the flower delivery company was deemed to have used ‘unnatural linkbuilding’ in the build up to Valentine’s Day and was severely penalised by Google.

Penguin 2.0 – The Attack Is Back

Therefore it’s no surprise that the announcement of the imminent release of Penguin 2.0 in May left many a-trembling in their virtual boots. It’s hard to determine the exact results as of yet, but Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed that it would be: “more comprehensive” that there would be: “deeper targeting” aimed at sites that are STILL using black-hat techniques. So in a nutshell, Google’s evolved its algorithm to catch up with those trying to sneakily loophole their way to higher rankings. However after the outcry due to the results of Penguin the First, Google is trying to keep businesses updated as much as possible on upcoming changes to its algorithms and so will (hopefully) give everyone lots of notice when and if they release Penguin the Third.

What We Know…So Far

It’s been just a couple of weeks since Penguin 2.0’s release so the full effects aren’t properly known…yet. However, there are reports of brands losing some rankings – probably from old back links that are not regarded as quality by Google. Reports seem to indicate that a common theme is a lack of natural links. Sites using paid text links for example (where links are bought that exactly match anchor text) have not been looked on favourably, plus comment spam, guest posts on questionable sites, article marketing sites as well as links from downright dangerous sites that have been flagged for spam. This is essentially a problem for brands still submitting en masse to directories.

Bigger Brands Are NOT Excluded

For larger brands that have been around for a while, there are many links included that if built today would undoubtedly be seen as black hat. Although Google’s said it doesn’t retroactively apply penalties for weak links, rankings could STILL drop due to low-quality links being given less weight. This makes auditing links for big brands very difficult!

50 Shades Of Grey

The problem is there’s a MASSIVE grey area where businesses are not exactly sure where they stand. For example, HOW relevant does manual link-building have to be? How does Google define quality? Which article marketing sites are being penalised and what’s the criteria?

Moving Forward…

Focus on the brand!

If there’s one thing that online marketers are all agreed on it’s that you can’t go wrong if you focus on your brand. If you get control of your online ‘persona’ through a coherent, authentic, online marketing strategy using strong original content as well as social media marketing, the only way is up. It’s about carving out a ‘voice’ for yourself, truly making your brand strong. And there’s nothing negative about that. After all, it forces quality control and in the long run we’ll all reap the rewards (well in theory anyway.)

In summary, Penguin 2.0’s pretty much more of the same. If you feel your ranking’s dropped – don’t panic. Instead focus on social media networks to share great content, team up with partners to share insights into each others’ businesses through great articles and commentaries; use it as an opportunity to ensure you’re the best you can be.

In the long-run this can only benefit your business.

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